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Shipwreck Survivors Sang Popular Tunes, Told Jokes During Nightmare Journey With PM-Clipper

May 22, 1986

Shipwreck Survivors Sang Popular Tunes, Told Jokes During Nightmare Journey With PM-Clipper Survivors Bjt

MIDDLE RIVER, Md. (AP) _ The eight survivors of the sunken Pride of Baltimore said they sang songs and told jokes during their four-day, seven-hour ordeal aboard a life raft on the open sea.

″We’d find something to laugh at,″ said John Flanagan, the ship’s First Mate, adding, when a crew member would question their ability to survive, ″We’d slap them on the shoulder and say, ’Don’t worry, you’ll make it.‴

The clipper schooner, a replica of a 19th-century ship, went down two minutes after a white squall with hurricane force winds overcame the vessel May 14, the 27-year-old Niantic, Conn., resident said.

The day the ship went down, Capt. Armin E. Elsaesser III called all hands on deck at 11:30 a.m., Flanagan recalled at a tearful news conference. The winds had increased to 35 knots. The captain ordered the crew to lower two of the three sails.

Then, without warning, a wall of water and wind overcame the boat.

″It’s hard to imagine the force of the wind that hit us,″ Flanagan said. ″It was solid water everywhere. It was not raining, but for 20 feet up it was a solid plume of water and waves.″

When the storm hit, James Chesney, 25, was preparing soup for his crewmates. His glasses flew off as he struggled to get out of the cabin. He said he tried four times to push himself from the cabin wall.

″I don’t know how long it took. In my mind, I wasn’t scared to death. It was going to work out,″ the Newmarket, N.H., resident said.

″As soon as I hit the water I knew it wasn’t my time to die,″ said Scott Jeffrey, a 26-year-old deckhand from Linthicum, Md.

The survivors spent an hour trying to inflate one life raft, before discovering it was ripped.

As they took turns blowing up a second raft, the bodies of Nina Schack, 23, of Baltimore and Barry Duckworth, of Georgetown, Del., floated beside them. The search for Elsaesser, 42, of South Dartmouth, Mass., and Vincent Lazaro, 27, of West Redding, Conn., continues.

For more than four days, the crew members huddled in the 5 1/2 by 5 1/2 -foot raft, watching forlornly as five vessels and two planes passed them by.

The group rationed their sparse supplies, eating a quarter of a five-inch biscuit each day and drinking two ounces of water.

Modesty fell by the wayside, said Jeffrey referring to the need of the survivors to relieve themselves.

″In every way, it was horrible,″ said Dan Krachuck, 22, of Springfield, Pa. ″Spiritually, though, the support of everyone else seemed to almost cancel that out in a lot of ways.″

″I definitely became more religious,″ said Jeffrey.

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